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Welcome to Part 5 of my 5 Tips to Rock the Learner Experience in Your Online Courses blog post series.

This blog post series explores learner experience design issues that every course creator should know if they are serious about creating profitable, high-value online courses.

Learner experience design is the process of creating online learning that provides meaningful and personally relevant experiences for online learners.

Why? Because the learner experience is vital to the instructional design process and product.

So today we’re going to explore yet another aspect of learning design that will help you significantly improve the instructional experience for your online students – The Course Instructor Presence Experience.

But before we start, just a quick recap. In Part 1 of this series, we dissected the The Course Kick-Off Experience. In Part 2 of this series, we examined the Course Visual Experience. Part 3 focused on the The Course Instructional Experience. And in the Part 4 of this series we examined The Course Social Experience.

Okay, let’s get down to business and take a deep dive into…

Tip #5 – The Instructor Presence Experience

If you want to create raving fans out of the students in your online courses, you’ve got to make your presence known and FELT. Period!

Your online students need to feel like you are guiding them through each phase of the learning journey in the courses you have worked so hard to develop for them.

You can create a sense of ‘instructor presence’ in your online courses in a myriad of ways. Just be sure to customize your teacher presence in a manner that stays true to your brand, your time, and your goals for your business.

As in every other aspect of your business, you want to shape and mold your teacher identity. You need to be very deliberate about how you craft your students’ perception of who you as their teacher (and fearless leader) in your online courses.

And you will only achieve that by being very purposeful about the choices you make and the strategies you apply to shape your students’ perception of you in your course offerings.

Doing this will have a huge impact on the success of your online courses and on the quality of the learner experience in your courses.

So today I am going to share the 3 most important teaching practices that you can apply to make your presence known (and felt) to positively influence the learner experience in your online courses.

Best Practice #1 – Create a Positive First Impression

First impressions matter. Let your students get to know you before the course begins. And make sure that the very first thing students see when they enter your course is YOU!

There are a couple of easy ways to achieve these goals.

During the lead up to the course, create an email list of folks who have pre-registered for your course. Then, send a series of automated emails to these students. The purpose of these emails is to build up excitement and to manage expectations about the course. In these emails, you can share snippets of course content and explain the value of this content. You can also solicit questions from your students to gain a better sense of what they are struggling with and why they decided to take your course. Based on their input, you might even revise or add content to your course prior to ‘opening day’.

You should also create a separate email list and automated email series for anyone on your email list who has expressed interest in the course but has not registered yet. In the emails to this on-the-fence group, you can convey buzz about your course by showcasing a case study or two of students who have benefited from your course. In these case studies, be sure to highlight the how your course led to a powerful outcome.

If you haven’t signed up for an email marketing service yet, now is the time to do so. I recommend mailchimp or mailerlite for anyone just starting out with email marketing because they offer free plans.

Best Practice #2 – Create a Strong Digital Presence

  • Social Presence
    You can create a social presence by sharing snippets of your multi-dimensional self. While you want to avoid going overboard on this, it can be beneficial to share some personal photos of yourself, your family, your hobbies, your pets, and your favorite places, foods, etc.

    In sharing aspects of your personal life, you can cultivate connection, relationships, and build trust with your students. Your students will be so delighted to find common ground with you. They will also feel more motivated to complete your course.

  • Teaching Presence
    To make your presence felt in your courses, you need to ensure that your course is designed for a user-friendly experience. Your course requires ease of navigation. And your course content must be highly structured, comprehensible and accessible. Expert course design sends a powerful message to your students. It lets them know that you care about them and their experience in your course.

You should also create a mentoring or guiding presence in your course. This can be built into the course. Some suggestions include course reminders or announcements, course checkpoints, which could literally be checklists or student progress plugins. And if your course has a coaching component, you can host live events such as webinars, virtual workshops, guest speaker events, virtual office hours and/or one-on-one coaching calls.

If your course utilizes a discussion tool or a private Facebook group, you can also make your presence felt there.

  • Cognitive Presence

    You can facilitate cognitive presence in the course by guiding and mentoring your students towards mastery of the course content. Cognitive presence will be felt acutely in the presentation and flow of the content in your course. It will also be conveyed through your students’ achievements in the course – by what they produce in the course. Be sure to offer your students validation for their efforts by evaluating and offering feedback on their work in the course.

Best Practice #3 – Create a Supportive Community and Connections

It is absolutely imperative to build community and to facilitate connections in your online courses. Fortunately, this is easy to do through student-to-student, instructor-to-student, and student-to-resource(s) engagement. Suggestions include having students introduce themselves at the beginning of the course, pairing students as accountability partners in cohort courses, moderating a private Facebook group, having a Q&A forum built into the course, and sending emails to course participants at critical junctures in the course.

Okay, that wraps things up for this five-part learner design experience series.

I hope I’ve helped shed some light on how to rock the learner experience in your courses by sharing these 5 key tips and strategies that you can use in your online courses.

Please share your learning design for instructional experience tips in the comments section below. Have a question or comment? I’d love to hear from you.

Got a learning design, online course or web design project you want to talk about? Reach out to me today!